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Campaign Finance Filings Show District 2 Council Race is Heating Up (Updated)

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Carlina Rivera was one of three candidates endorsed by the New York City Progressive Caucus earlier this month.
Carlina Rivera was one of three candidates endorsed by the New York City Progressive Caucus earlier this month.

This story was reported by Sarah Kerr.

City Council District 2 candidate Carlina Rivera is not only campaigning against her Democratic primary opponents – she’s also positioning herself as part of the city’s vocal resistance to the Trump administration.

Rivera’s approach has galvanized Democrats across the city and in her district, leading to 226 small-dollar donations between July and January. But the race is heating up with five candidates now vying for the seat, including Mary Silver, Erin Hussein, Jasmin Sanchez and Ronnie Cho. Silver is demonstrating fundraising prowess of her own, collecting the third most small-dollar donations of any candidate running for city office this cycle, narrowly edging out Rivera, who is in the number 4 spot.

Rivera, 33, the former legislative director for term-limited District 2 Councilwoman Rosie Mendez, began her campaign in mid-2016. At a recent fundraiser in a Brooklyn bar, Rivera addressed a crowd of 25 young Trump-weary supporters, many from outside of District 2, which spans portions of the Lower East Side up to Kips Bay.

“I started fundraising a long time ago because I knew there was a lot of 10 dollars I had to stack,” Rivera said. The audience laughed. “But what we really need are people, because this is a movement. This is about staying the diverse sanctuary city that we intend to,” Rivera said, addressing Trump’s threats to cut federal funding for cities that do not comply with his proposed immigration policies.

“I think she has got the grit,” said fundraiser attendee and donor Sheri Tarr of Carroll Gardens. Tarr found Rivera while researching candidates all over the city, in the hopes of channeling her frustrations following the election. “We need people at the local level who feel good about pushing back against bullies,” Tarr said, referencing President Trump.

In January’s campaign finance filings, Rivera reported she had received $176,000 in donations, leaving her just shy of the $182,000 spending cap for the race. The impressive total led Rivera’s campaign to release a statement touting her as the “clear front-runner.” Rivera has been endorsed by Mendez and New York City Council Progressive Caucus. She has also received support from the “21 in ‘21” initiative, an effort by a group of female council members to elect 21 women to the 51-seat council by 2021.

Jasmin Sanchez, Mary Silver, Ronnie Cho, Erin Hussein.
Jasmin Sanchez, Mary Silver, Ronnie Cho, Erin Hussein.

But the latest round of campaign finance disclosures, submitted to the New York City Campaign Finance Board on March 15, show Rivera’s four Democratic challengers are beginning to make headway.

Mary Silver, a lawyer and a member of Community Board 6, reported $21,327, which brings her total funds to just below $60,000. Both Silver and Rivera have maxed out their individual contributions from New York City residents, which are matched six-to-one by the city’s public campaign finance program.

“As our recent filing proves, there has been an outpouring of support for my candidacy because East Siders want a councilwoman who’s fought alongside them for decades,” Silver said via email.

Jasmin Sanchez, 38, director of a local a non-profit and former staffer for State Sen. Daniel Squadron, said she had raised $38,000 since January, although her contributions are not yet showing up in the city’s online database. Sanchez explained that she’s working out issues with some of her contribution cards and expects her account balances to be available soon.

Sanchez said Rivera is positioned as the favorite because she worked for Mendez, the sitting council member. “So everyone is always going to see her as the frontrunner.”

Erin Hussein, 46, a community activist and former lawyer who entered the race in January, raised $888 between mid-January and March 11. She cautioned it was too early to draw any conclusions on the race from Rivera’s fundraising numbers.

“She has a lot of people who are contributors who are not voters in this district,” said Hussein. “So, those are people who can’t vote for her, because they either don’t live in the city or they don’t live in the district.”

Obama White House alum Ronnie Cho, the newest candidate, registered on March 8, just seven days before the filing deadline. Cho reported $29,955 raised. The Cho campaign did not respond to a request for comment for this article, but he was featured in an story today on the website of NBC News.

Another candidate, Tyler Kline, reported $234.

The Democratic primary will take place on September 12.

Editorial note: This story has been revised to reflect that Mary Silver has collected the third most small donor contributions in New York City and that Rivera has raised the fourth most small donor donations. The original article incorrectly stated that Rivera came in second in this category. We apologize for the error.

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